Amid classic IRS scams, the agency always maintained that it would never call a person on the phone about taxes they may owe, which has caused people to lose a lot of money.
Now that the IRS has hired debt collectors to call people on their behalf, how will you know if it’s scam call or the real deal?
The IRS listed the companies they hired: CBE Group, Conserve, Performant, and Pioneer.
These companies will collect on accounts where tax payers owe money, but the IRS is no longer actively pursuing it.
"That will be very confusing," said Rashida Akhand of Marlborough. "Which one is it?"
Akhand has been called several times by people claiming to be the IRS, but she never fell for the scam because she followed one simple rule.
"IRS don’t call you," said Akhand, "(The) IRS sends you a letter."
Written verification is one of the ways you will be able to spot the fake callers. The IRS said a person will get two separate letters to notify them about being transferred to a private collection agency before the calls start coming.
Officals also said the approved collection companies will never demand payment by a pre-paid money card or wire transfer.
Lois Greisman of the Federal Trade Commission said that should be a red flag.
"No one in the government is ever going to ask for payment by wire transfer or a gift card such as iTunes," said Greisman.
While that is important to know, what is not known is how the scam IRS callers will fare in a market of real ones.
"That’s a great question," said Greisman. "There is really no way to know. We are seeing an increase of these kinds of scams over the last year and unfortunately, that trend appears to be continuing."
The Treasury Inspector General said during a two year period, they got more than 730,000 complaints about fakers claiming to be calling to collect for the IRS. Nearly 4,500 people were victims during that time and lost some 23 million dollars.
"They are menacing and they are ruthless in their pursuit of their victims," said Bruce Foucart of Homeland Security. "They convey authority and sense of urgency that leaves their victims terrified."
Some people have taken to YouTube to warn others when they were contacted by scammers. They recorded themselves talking to the scammer who threatened jail for those who didn’t pay right away. The videos collectively have over 1 million views. But even with people spreading the word, some are still getting taken advantage of by this scam. With the added confusion of legitimate IRS debt collectors contacting people, it could get worse.
The IRS declined our request for an interview, but in a press release said the collection agencies will start next spring.
Remember, if you get a call from someone claiming to be the IRS or collecting for the IRS and you are not sure if it's real, you can always hang up and contact the IRS to verify that its' legitimate.